Many local businesses have limped through the pandemic as sales slowed to a trickle. Others were forced to shut down temporarily following state orders and some have closed the doors for good. But one locally famous shop has adapted and thrived through a tumultuous 2020.
Finitos, the Perkins Avenue shop that’s served up flavored-ice treats for more than three decades, shouldered on through the coronavirus this summer, as well as a months-long street repair project that brought dust and noisy construction to an otherwise quiet neighborhood.
“Fortunately for us, it was hectic, it was very busy,” said Milo Rendon, who operates the shop with his wife Maria Rendon.
“We would consider ourselves lucky,” Maria added, “because (customers) supported us.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the husband-and-wife duo were serving up their signature finitos through a small window – the doors have been closed since March and the current setup is the latest of a few systems they’ve tried in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
In the early days of the pandemic, the show went on as usual, with a polite request for mask use inside the store, where customers can browse the dozens of flavors ranging from ciruela to cotton candy, as well as a selection of ice cream offerings.
But not everyone wore masks.
“We got stressed out and just closed the door,” Milo said.
In March, they trotted out a new strategy that kept customers on the sidewalk: Maria stood by a chain-link fence that borders the property, taking orders from customers on the other side of the fence while Milo scooped up the product and passed it back to his wife through the window.
But that configuration created its own problems. For while the pair used to make their product while serving, the socially distant service plan meant they couldn’t make frozen treats and sell them at the same time. So during the week, they started closing the store at least an hour before the usual 7 p.m. closing time to make time for production.
Eventually, they moved to the current style, where customers walk past the fence and onto the store’s front porch, but order and receive their treats through the window.
Help from the heat
Some sales opportunities dried up, like supplying Little League games, schools and the Boys and Girls Club down the street. But Milo said those lost sales have largely been replaced by individuals making bigger orders for a group.
On Wednesday afternoon, a pair of young customers took orders over the phone from family members before ordering a half-dozen finitos.
And the Rendons got a welcome assist from the weather. July and August 2020 were the hottest July and August in the local area since at least 2001, according to National Weather Service data, and sweaty summer days mean more demand for sweet, cold treats.
“The temperature has actually helped us,” Milo said, though he and Maria both noted that the combination of hot weather and an out-the-door service plan meant some customers suffered a little more than usual while waiting for their orders.
While Finitos may have been spared the damage seen at other local shops, Milo said the store’s fortunes are ultimately tied to the rest of the local economy: “Without people having a job, we don’t have a job. They’re the ones bringing the money.”
Speaking on Sept. 1, Milo said that sales were starting to decline, but that’s usual for this time of year.
Having emerged intact from this summer, he’s got one request for 2021: “I’m just hoping next year could be a return to normal.”